Americans woke up last week to the news of the horrible tragedy that took place in Orlando. We all as Americans are saddened and troubled by another act of terror on our nation’s soil. My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of those whose lives were lost.
While mourning the loss of innocent life, one question to ask is if an unthinkable situation like this should happen in our state, would our law enforcement and emergency personnel have the tools needed to respond as effectively as possible?
During the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, law enforcement and firefighters were not able to effectively communicate with each other during the rescue efforts due to lack of interoperability, or the ability for their radio/communications equipment to work together. Since then, states have been working to increase emergency communication interoperability, to be better prepared when tragedy does strike.
Interoperability is not only important in highly tragic situations, but any situation involving more than one jurisdiction of law enforcement or emergency response agency. In Iowa, there have been reports of the State Patrol and local law enforcement jointly pursuing a suspect and the two agencies couldn’t communicate with each other over radio. All this does is lead to confusion and a less effective response.
Over the past several years, our state has worked on plans to improve interoperability and give law enforcement the tools they need to better serve Iowans. This session, the legislature approved House File 2439 that was signed by the Governor to provide the initial funding to establish a new statewide communications network that will allow for interoperability.
Westcom Emergency Communications, which dispatches 911 calls from West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Norwalk, and Waukee was the first to connect to the new system. The statewide system is expected to be built in two years, and cities and counties can choose whether or not they want to connect.
This legislation and the statewide communications platform is a huge step forward in helping law enforcement best serve Iowans in the most efficient and effective ways during times when they need it most.